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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Peace of Brothers - a midrash on Va'yetzei

In this week’s parashah, Va’yetze (Genesis/Bereshit28:10-32:3), the saga of Jacob continues. After fleeing from the anger of his brother, Esau, he finally arrives in the land of Haran, from where his ancestors came, and find Rebecca, his bride. Later on we also read that Esau marries from the daughters of Canaan and the daughters of Ishmael, his father Isaac's "half brother."

The primary narrative in the parashah focuses on Jacob, as he is the patriarch from whom our people take it's name (once it is changed to Israel). The ancient rabbis demonize Esau for the most part, equating his name with the oppressive Roman empire. But in the Torah there is none of this demonization.


If we view all the characters in the Torah as representing a part of each of us, much as one might analyze a dream, we can see Esau as that within us which we feel the need to demonize, criticize and ostracize. Only by viewing this piece of us with equanimity and compassion can we walk on the path of oneness.


And so, through the original midrash that follows, I have tried to recover Esau as a patriarch and as part of myself, along with his brother and the other patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people.


Shabbat Shalom,


Steven



The Peace of Brothers


The young man walked as fast as he could along the desert path. Surrounded by nothing but sand, stones and sparse brush he could feel the blood pumping, anger pulsing within. Behind him, the setting sun burned bright red. Mingling with the red hair that covered his body and the crimson of the anger in his face it seemed as if he were on fire. For he was.

“How could he have done it,” he continually muttered under his breath, “… my own brother.” The anger in his eye mingled with an intense sadness the two struggling for domination of his mind and soul. Currently, anger was winning the battle.

“And my father …” he thought to himself, “ … how could he not have realized what was happening? Even blind, how could he not have known in his soul that he was being tricked? I expect no better from my mother …… but him!” And so the young man continued walking, almost running, looking all around him for something – someone – who could not be see anywhere. Looking for his brother who, unknown to him, was far away in the opposite direction.

Finally he realized that he had better make camp before the sun set. At that moment he came upon a stream that he had never seen before, even though he thought he knew this part of the desert well. He went to the stream, bent down and splashed its cool water on his burning face. It did nothing to cool his rage. Then he gathered odd bits of wood and brush to make a fire. He then sat down upon a large stone and began to arrange the wood, all the while mumbling to himself “when I find him I’ll kill him for what he has taken from me.”

While still muttering to himself he lit the fire and stared into it’s burning flames as they tried to stay alive. Suddenly he noticed a shadow on the ground in front of him. He looked up and saw a strange man standing there, his facial features eclipsed by the sun that was setting directly behind him. Out of the blackness of this sunset shadow the man, “Esau, what are you doing?” Esau was stunned, “how did you know my name?” he asked. The man did not respond, but simply continued to speak to him with great intensity and purpose.

“Esau. Your anger has cried out to me. I have heard the screams of your desire for vengeance. It is your rage that has brought me here to you.” The man paused and Esau sat in silence not knowing how to respond.

“But why are you so enraged? Why is murder the only thought on your mind?” “How could I think of anything else? My very own brother has stolen my birthright along with the blessing from my father! I have been left with nothing! And beyond that, my father, who I thought loved and understood me, allowed himself to be duped by my brother and my mother. Now I am left with nothing except my desire for revenge and justice!”

“Justice!” replied the stranger, “true justice does not require the blood of another human being! Especially the justice of the God of your ancestors! The God whose name is shalom/peace. The God who brought me to you at this very moment.”

“That God is no longer my god,” replied Esau. “That God has abandoned me. That God, in which that I believed with my whole being may still be my father’s God, my mother’s God, my brother’s God. If that God were my god this would not allow this to happen. I no longer have a God!” With that Esau turned away from the stranger, looked down at the ground and began stoking the flames of the slowly dying fire.

As the sun continued to set behind the stranger he spoke to Esau in a voice that filled Esau with fear and awe. “If that is the case, then why am I here? Your voice cried out to the God of your ancestors, of your God. And it is God who has sent me to you to deliver a message.” “But why?” Esau replied, “If God truly cared God would not have allowed any of this to happen.”

“ Listen closely Esau, for I am here to give you a message from the Divine, but which comes from my experience and my all-too-human heart. I am here to beg you, to plead with you, not to continue your hatred of your brother. You must let go of the hatred in your heart. You must rid yourself of your murderous desire. For hatred destroys compassion and mercy and eventually will destroy you.”

Upon hearing these words Esau looked up with fierceness in his eyes that mirrored the hatred in his soul. “How dare you tell me what I must or must not do? You have no idea what I have gone through! You haven’t a clue what it feels like to be a pawn in a game of favorites between your parents and then to think that finally, the fact that you are just a few minutes older will finally pay off because – no matter what –father’s blessing is yours! And then to have all of that taken from you. To see your brother, whom you have tried to love in spite of everything, become the chosen one instead! This is more than anyone can bear!”

The stranger replied with a sense of compassion and equanimity that began to slowly have an affect on Esau’s anger, though he did not know why. “Esau, know what you are feeling. I have felt this way as well. I know what it’s like to feel rejected by a parent figure, to feel inferior to your brother and to allow my hatred to become so strong, so uncontrollable that it eventually led me to murder. Unable to find compassion within or to change the direction of my heart I reached out my hand to slay my own brother! That is why God sent me, begging you not to make the same mistake as I. Do not to doom yourself to a life of endless wandering, loneliness and hopelessness, such as I.”

At that moment Esau looked up at the stranger. The sun had finally set so that he could see his face a little more clearly in the light of the flames. It was worn with years, and yet he still appeared young in some strange way. Esau could see in the man’s eyes a sadness and a tenderness that told him this man was bringing him a truth that he needed to hear. A truth that transcended the hatred he had been feeling.

As the flames grew even brighter, Esau’s eyes were drawn to the man’s forehead, for in the middle there was a mark. As he was attempting to make out if it was a letter or an image of some other kind he suddenly realized who was speaking to him. “You …” he stammered “ you are …” he could not make himself say the name. “Yes,” said the stranger, “I am Cain, son of the first human beings and the first one to murder … my very own flesh and blood! I have been doomed since that day to wander the earth trying to repent for my sin by preventing others from doing the same. And so when your heart cried out to me in anger and pain I knew I had to come.”

Esau remained sitting in stunned silence as Cain continued, “The message I have for you is a simple one. If you turn your heart and soul away from your anger and return to your home, then this place on which we stand will be blessed, just as your life will be blessed. It will be a holy place, as you have inherent holiness within you. It will be place of rahamim and shalom, of compassion, peace and tranquility, as will your soul. This place will forever be known as a place where God’s presence dwells. It will also be the place to which, when the time is right, you shall return and reconcile with your brother in peace and in love.

“But if you continue to hate – whether or not you find or kill your brother – this place will forever be cursed. It shall be known as a place of death and hatred where nothing shall bloom or grow. It will remain forever as empty and desolate as a heart of hatred and jealousy. The choice is yours, my son. I only pray that you chose the right path and do not do as I did.”

The two men looked into each other’s eyes and each other’s souls. Not another word needed to be spoken. Esau looked down at the flames at his feet he allowed Cain’s words to enter him. He paid attention to the message be sent and he could feel the anger within him beginning to melt.

When he looked up to reply to Cain, he was no longer standing there. Esau arose and looked around. But he knew that he was once again alone. But he then realized something important. Filled with anger he had cut himself off from humanity, from family and from God. He was truly alone. But as the anger subsided he realized that he was not alone. Standing there he could sense his connection to all, to God. He looked at the flames, now beginning to die, he listened to the water flowing and imagined it dousing the flames of hatred in his heart and purifying his soul. For a long time he simply stood there paying attention to these feelings within him. H knew that there was still anger and hurt within him, but he was no longer allowing this to control him. Then he looked down at the place where he stood and he knew at that moment that it was indeed destined to return. He then lay down on the ground next to the stone where he had been sitting and fell into a deep sleep.

In the morning when he awoke, Esau anointed the stone next to him with the water from the stream and named the place M’kom Shalom - place of peace, in honor of what had occurred. He then returned home to live his life, knowing that one day he would once again stand by that stream, the one that he had never noticed before, and embrace his brother in peace, compassion and love.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Toldot: On Being a Jewish Man

This week’s parashah/portion is Toledot (Bereshit/Genesis 25:19 – 28:9). It begins with the phrase “these are the generations of Isaac, son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac.” We then read the genealogy of Isaac’s descendants. Though this opening seems at first blush to be simple, the great hassidic rebbe Levi Isaac of Berditchev, is drawn to it’s phrasing. He asks (and take some “author’s license” here) why the text focuses on the fact that Abraham begot Isaac, and not that Sarah gave birth to him. In citing various verses from earlier in the book of Bereshit, he first focuses on the righteousness of Isaac in comparison to his half-brother Yishmael (also Abraham’s son, though not Sarah’s). He states that, contrary to what one might believe, Isaac is not automatically considered a tzaddik/righteous person because he is the son of Abraham. Rather, since is the son of a tzadik, Isaac must actually earn the title of tzadik through his actions.

Then the commentary takes a turn that I find fascinating – and quite disturbing. For Levi Isaac believes that Isaac earn the title of ‘seed of Abraham’,as well tzadik, because of the Akeidah, the time when Abraham bound him to the altar and almost sacrificed him. Furthermore, using various rabbinic sources as proof texts, Levi Isaac states that, though Sarah gave birth to Isaac, he received his soul – and his “life” – from his father. Again, this occurred on Mt. Moriah when he was bound on the altar and almost killed!

It would be simple to dismiss this entire commentary as a way to emphasize the paternal lineage and ignore Isaac’s maternal line. This kind of misogyny would not be unheard of in rabbinic commentary! However, I experience this text as much more. To state that the trial that was experienced by Isaac on Mt. Moriah at the hands of his father is responsible for Isaac receiving his neshamah/soul is much more than that? For it begs the bigger question: how is it that the terrifying experience on that mountain made him “truly alive,” and made him his “father’s son?”

This is an especially ironic question considering the fact that Torah never mentions Isaac and Abraham seeing each other again after the Akeidah. So how it is that what I would view as an abusive near-death experience, is viewed as giving Isaac his life and assuring his place as patriarch and a tzadik? As a rabbi, I have theological issues with this point of view. As a man, I find it frightening and dangerous.

I have also been grateful that Judaism was not one of those religions or cultures that utilized violent or frightening rites of passage to mark entrance to adulthood. Though I do feel that Bar/Bat Mitzvah has lost its meaning for many and needs to become more of a true rite of passage, the addition of violence and fear is not part of my ideal formula! Yet, here is a great hassidic rebbe focusing on one of the most problematic, fearsome and violent passages of the Torah and viewing it in a positive light!

In reading his interpretation I can’t help but think of all of the boys throughout history - until this very day - who have been told that what it means to be a man is to be tough, not show fear – or feelings – and prove oneself. It is not acceptable to be a ‘wimp,' a ‘sissy,’'gay,' or 'queer.'. One must instead be brave, fearless, stoic and macho. That is how we cut our mother’s apron strings and become independent men!

Of course, this has changed for many men in our society, and yet a vestige of this still exists even in the most enlightened of contemporary men and women.The hyper-masuline action hero still abounds in our society. Conversely, the father-as-buffoon we see on so many TV sitcoms, the jokes about men centering on their masculinity, or lack thereof, the implicit and explicit homophobia that still exists in our society and the exaggerated negative images of “domineering”mothers that still fill our popular culture all relate back to this in some way.

By stating that Isaac receives his soul – his inner Divine essence – from his father when he is almost killed by him, Levi Isaac is also implying that he was not yet truly alive as long as he was still connected to his mother (the feminine force in his life)! From this perspective, Sarah’s death at the beginning of the parashah that immediately follows the Akeidah takes on a new meaning. It is as if, in order for Isaac to receive his soul and earn his place as a tzadik, he must not only endure emotional (and even physical) abuse at the hand of his father, but he must also sever his ties to his mother to such a degree that it brings about her death. Beyond this, he must also then separate himself from his father so he can be the independent man he was meant to be. Therefore, Abraham returns home alone after the Akeidah and Isaac goes … who knows where. It seems as if Levi Isaac has created a perverse Jewish version of the Oedipus myth where the boy kills the mother and then bonds with the father (after the father almost kills him) only to then abandon him as well in order to prepare to then marry the one for whom he is destined (who also happens to be his cousin on his father’s side!).

But before the marriage occurs, it appears that Isaac lives his life as a lone wolf. He is the alpha male seeking his place in society, preparing to continue his father’s work of creating a new people and a new society. He has passed the test. He has withstood the trial and not faltered. He can now truly be called a REAL man!

Yet, in the following passages we read how he is duped by his son Jacob (seen by the tradition as the more ‘feminine’ son, tied more closely to his mother) and how his son Esau (traditionally portrayed as the more ‘macho’ one, and his father’s favorite) is loses his birthright and his father’s blessing. In this narrative Esau, the macho one, is not the one who will continue the lineage of Abraham and Isaac. He is not the one who will be called tzadik, or seed of Abraham. Yet, even in this narrative, when the softer, more feminine son comes out ahead, we read of emotional and psychological games – if not abuse – that the brothers play with each other and their father, with their mother’s help. This continues as we then read of what happens to Jacob in terms of his relationship with his four wives, 12 sons and his oft-forgotten daughter.

Is being part of this vicious game of masculinity roulette what it means to be part of the generations of Abraham? It would seem so. As much as I would like to rewrite the Torah to provide a picture of a family where gender roles are different, where people are valued for who they are and not which parent they were closer to or how much they embodied the idealized man this is not the Torah that we have inherited.

So it seems that we must continue to struggle with our Torah in order to see what it has to teach us about what it means to be a human being, in general, and what it means to be a man or a woman, in particular. We may not like what we find in the texts – or in the commentaries – but it is in our reactions and relationship to the text that we can find our true selves. It is in the words, as well as in the spaces between them, we can find our soul and our identity.

As a Jewish man, I must find a way to find my place among generations of Abraham, and claim Abraham as my ancestor, while at the same time rejecting the violence, abuse, and disconnection that is a part of Jewish male mythology. I must also find a way to say that I am part of the generations of Sarah, while rejecting the notion that to be connected to the maternal means being less than a man or being dominated by a powerful, and even dangerous, outside force.

This is not an easy task, but it is something in which Jewish men need to engage themselves as we struggle with the tradition and our relationship to it. Of course, there is also a struggle in which Jewish women need to engage themselves as well. However, as a man I only feel qualified to discuss what I see (and this is also objective) as part of the masculine struggle of what it means to be a child of Abraham and Sarah, what it means to strive to be a tzadik through my actions, and what I can pass on to my son and to the next generation of Jewish men – gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and others - to help them as the embark upon the journey of manhood – whatever that means to each of us.

All of this requires me, and each of us, to pay attention to the voices of our ancestors, recent and ancient, that fill our minds with messages at every moment, many of them conflicting. We must hold these contradictions as part of who we are and not fight them. For they have something to teach us, as does everything that arises within us and within our minds at any given moment.

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 13, 2009

Commentary on Hayyei Sarah

This week's parashah is Hayyei Sarah (Bereshit/Genesis 23:1-25:18). Though the name of the parashah means "life of Sarah" it actually begins by recounting her death at the age of 127. Our matriarchs often get forgotten as compared to their husbands, and yet Sarah is the only one of all of our seven biblical patriarchs and matriarchs whose name is used in the title of a parashah.

Though this might seem strange at first, it is quite fitting. For if one looks at the character of Sarah as portrayed both in the Torah itself and in the midrash (rabbinic exegetical tales) written later on she surely deserves recognition.

Within the Torah Sarah is a character that is seen as strong, yet flexible. When she thinks that her son Isaac is being threatened by his brother Ishmael she immediately protects him by insisting that Abraham cast out Ishmael and his mother Hagar. Though her actions may be viewed by us as harsh and disproportionate to any actual threat, no one can claim that she was being passive.

Yet, the same Sarah (or Sarai, as she was in her earlier years)leaves her home and her family with her husband and follows him to an unknown land without ever seeming to question him. This may seem to us as the actions of a passive and subservient wife. Yet, the Sages do not view these actions as passive either. In fact, the Sages say that Sarah is actually to be more praised than Abraham because he went on the journey having spoken with God and knowing that God was with them. However, Sarah went on this journey because she had unwavering faith in God without ever hearing God's voice directly. We are even told by the Sages that Sarah's prophetic powers were greater than Abraham's because the Ruah Ha'Kodesh (Holy Spirit) rested upon her in a special way that it did not rest upon Abraham or anyone else, for that matter. This is symbolized by the midrash that states that the cloud of the Shekhinah (God's Divine Presence) hovered over the entrance to Sarah's tent, just as it was to later hover over the mishkan, the portable Sanctuary where worship took place during the Israelites' years of wandering in the desert. We read in the midrash : "All the years that Sarah was alive, there was a cloud [of the Shekhinah] at the entrance of her tent ...the doors of the tent stood wide open...there was blessing in the dough of the bread...there was a light burning from one Shabbat
eve to the next Shabbat eve." (Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, 60:10).

The midrash continues to tell us that the light went out, the doors closed and the cloud disappeared upon Sarah's death only to return when (in this week's parashah) Isaac brought his new bride Rebecca into "his mother's tent" where she comforted him following Sarah's death.

In this midrash it is clear that Sarah was seen as the model of hospitality, kindness, and blessing and had a special connection with the Divine. Our Sages remind us that when the angels/visitors came to Abraham to tell him of Isaac's birth, Abraham went to Sarah and asked her to prepare the meal, for he knew that it was because of her that the dough was blessed. Though Abraham carried on the conversation with the visitors it was Sarah's hospitality that provided these divine messengers with sustenance. In the rabbinic mind Sarah and Abraham's relationship was portrayed as a true partnership in which Sarah played a significant role. How tragic then that for years the Amidah, the central prayer of our liturgy, began by calling on God as simply the God of
Abraham and only within the last few decades within more liberal circles, as the God of Abraham and the God of Sarah. The midrash makes it clear that Sarah had a relationship with God separate from that of Abraham and unique in its own way.

Sarah's spirit and her strength can serve as a role model for us all, regardless of gender. The fact that the midrash portrays the Divine Presence as returning to Sarah's tent upon Rebecca's entry into the tent also shows us that Rivkah is the clear spiritual heir to Sarah's legacy. And so the tradition of the God of Sarah, the God of Rebecca, the God of Rachel and the God of Leah, may indeed be as old as the idea of God as the God of their male partners; it has only taken us this long to acknowledge this fact and rectify the situation. Let us hope that as time goes on more Jews realize this and more congregations outside of Reconstructionist, Reform and some Conservative ones, begin to include their names as well.

Naming God as such is not only about feminism or gender equality, but it is about acknowledging and paying attention to the God of Abraham and the God of Sarah within each of us, as well as the God of the other patriarchs and matriarchs. Rabbinic tradition attributes a specific middah (quality or personality trait) to each of our ancestors. If we stop and pay attention to the voices of all as they speak to us through prayer, meditation, study or simply living we discover these voices, these divine/human qualities within ourselves. Without paying attention to both the God of our Matriarchs and the God of our Patriarchs we are all diminished and our task of bringing the Divine into the world is left unfinished, just as Abraham's task of welcoming the Divine visitors would have been unfinished if Sarah had not been there to provide for their needs and to welcome and offer them blessings as well.

May we remember this as we remember the death and life of Sarah through this week's Torah reading.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Binding of Isaac in 5 parts

This week's parashah/portion is Va'yera (Bereshit/Genesis 18:1 – 22:26). In this parashah we read of the Akeidah, or binding, of Isaac/Yitzhak. After casting out his son Ishmael and his mother Hagar earlier in the chapter, Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac. He takes Isaac, along with 2 servant boys, to Mt. Moriah. Leaving the two servants at the foot of the mountain, Abraham and Isaac ascend to the summit. There, Isaac, whom the rabbis claim was 37 years old, allows himself to be bound to the altar in order to be sacrificed. At the moment when Abraham raises the knife, an angel of God calls out to him to stop and instructs him to instead sacrifice a ram that God has provided and who is stuck in a thicket by his horns.

Abraham unties Isaac and then sacrifices the ram. There is no mention of Isaac when this sacrifice takes place and the Torah says that Abraham and his servants return to Beersheba alone – without Isaac. Abraham and Isaac never see each other again. The next time Isaac sees his father is when he and Ishmael reunite in order to bury him.

Throughout this narrative, Sarah is never mentioned. We have no idea if she was even aware of what was happening. However, the next parashah begins with Sarah's death. For that reason the rabbis connected Sarah's death to the Akeidah, surmising in some commentaries, that her belief that Yitzhak had been killed (or joy over the fact when she found out that he had not) caused her death.

The following are four poems that I have written in the voices of Isaac, Sarah, Abraham and God. Then I have followed this with my personal reaction to this story of terror.

Due to the fact that blogspot will only publish in one column (I usually format it in 2 columns) this post is extremely long. But I did not want to separate the poems from one another. I hope you enjoy and learn from them. I would LOVE for you to post or write to me with your thought or reactions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Steven

PS I also use specific spacing and margins when writing my poems, but blogspots shifts everything so that it is left justified and I can't seem to do anything about it.

I. Bound Faith

Yitzhak
my name
Yitzhak
a verb
he shall laugh
but I cannot laugh
the name itself is a cruel joke
perhaps
they made a mistake
maybe
it should have been Yitz'ak
he shall cry out
no even that is not right
for I am not a verb
I do not act
I simply am
I know not
what

let father decide
let mother decide
let God decide
let me decide
now there's something
that makes me laugh
but there is
no one
to hear
I am
alone
I have left
father's house
though I carry it with me
I have left
my birthplace
Perhaps now I can finally be born
I have left
my land - my piece of earth
never really mine

Only one piece of earth truly belongs
to me
the place
where I was bound
the place
where I was willing
to give up
my life
my self
for my father
for his God
my God
the place
where I was prepared
to act
to finally become
a verb
a man
by doing
nothing

inactive action
courageous folly
that place
that time
that moment
I became
human
I became
one
with God father mother brother self everything
I realized
in that moment
I am alone
not alone
not bound
to the altar of fire
bound
to the altar of faith
bound faith
not
blind faith

faith
in the One
who gave me life
upon that altar
at the moment
when I
surrendered
I chose
to act
to do
to make a difference
to live
by allowing my
self
to die

I pray
that I can continue to act
to make
a difference
to become
a blessing

now
I begin
my journey
to the place
not shown to me
to the place
I will find on my own
step by step
perhaps that is the point
each step of the journey is
the destination
the place
the Divine
where we are meant
to be
to live
each place
the end and the beginning
each place
we can bind ourselves
to the One the All Existence

that is the essence of
the sacrifice
the journey
of being
alive


II. A Mother's Trial


why
did I let him go
how
could I not

my son
my only one
whom I love
more than life itself
is no more

I could not
look
I could only
hear
sitting
in my tent
surrounded
by God’s light
afraid
I would fail
the test
rise up
from my place
run to
him
embrace
him
prevent
him
from going
growing
living

I
did not

I
passed the test
I
kept my screams
tears
fear
self
hidden inside
I let
him
leave
alone
with his father
knowing that only one would return


the only way to fulfill God's promise
was to let him go
into the wilderness
from where we came
trusting in God
trusting in Abraham
trusting the voice in my soul
torn from my body
the moment I could no longer
hear his voice
see his face
feel his touch
the moment I realized
he was no longer
mine
as he should not be

perhaps now
he will become
who he was meant
to be
Yitzhak
a child of laughter

I remember
my laughter
when told I would give birth
Abraham's laughter
incredulity or joy or both
Yitzhak's laughter
a memory
a shadow
a childhood long ago cut short
the days before he realized
he was not
to be
like other children
the days before my fear jealousy hatred
masquerading as love
tore away his brother from him
the only one who truly made him feel
not alone

perhaps now he will
laugh again
live again
fulfill the promise
create a people
as numerous as the stars in the sky
the sands on the shore
shining brightly with the faith of
his father
able to shift like
his mother
with ebb and flow
constantly changing impermanence
of a life
built on hopes and dreams
that never turn out
as we imagine

I do not know
I can only pray
this shall come to pass

Now
I am alone
sitting in my tent
only God's light shining above me
that is more than enough
these days have been longer than any other
no
not a day
one night lasting an eternity
the sun remained in hiding
never rising never setting
only the darkness of the last night

in the distance I can see
three figures approach
two nameless servant boys
I do not know
nor do I care to
a man with whom I have shared
what seems 127 life times
bent over with sorrow and age
he too has passed his test


that is all
I see
no one else
that is enough
it is done
nothing more to do
but breathe in
and wait
for God to descend
and take my soulbreath
the part that is not with Yitzhak
back to its source
where it belongs
where one day it will be reunited
with the soul that came into the world through me
and filled me with laughter
joy
life
blessing
and who I pray will now do so for those who are yet to come

I am ready
to die
to be reborn
to wait
to see
what comes next
for him
for me
for him
for us all


III. After the Ram


The slaughter was easier
Than I had imagined
The sacrifice was not
What I had thought
Or was it

I did not need to kill him
Instead
I let die that part of him
Within me

The ram
trapped in the thicket
By its horns
A father
Trapped in the moment
By his fear and joy
A son
Set free at last
By the one
Who had kept him bound
All those years

I saw the ram
I knew what I must do
As if in a dream
I untied the boy
Looked at him
He turned away
I turned my back
Knowing
I would never see him
Again

I took my time
Did not want to turn and see
The inevitable
What I finally saw
Nothing
No one
He was gone

The ram struggled to be free
I struggled to let go
I bound the ram
I saw Yitzhak’s face
I slaughtered the ram
I saw my tears
I burned him on the altar
I saw God’s smile
I turned to return home
I saw Sarah’s scream
And I knew
The journey
Was over
The journey
Had just begun

Yitzhak
May you laugh
I had only to slaughter
A ram
Had only to sacrifice
Our relationship

I had
No choice
But to choose
This path
Now
We are each
On our own journeys
Destinations
Unknown
Yet the same

As I walk down the mountain
To return
To some where
I feel some thing
In my hand

I look down
I see
A horn
A reminder
Of what happened
And what did not
Of my test
And his
And hers

I still have it
Today
I sound it
To remember
That day
That moment
All that I lost then
All that I have now
Soon to be lost
As everything is

After the ram
Nothing was the same
Before the ram
Nothing was different

So it is
Before each moment
After each moment
A life
Continuing
Trial to trial
Sacrifice to sacrifice
Joy to joy
Sorrow to sorrow
Breath to breath
Until it ends
Only to begin
Again

IV. The Trial of God


It is done
Finished
Just begun
Neither both
It continues
Why
did I test
them
me
why
could I
not
have faith
in
my creations
why
did
I
Need
To know
The answer
That remains

Unknown
Even
After the test
Is complete

My children
Showed me
The meaning
Of faith
What meaning
Have I
Shown
Them
The meaning
Of
Testing
Trying
Manipulating
No
I have
Shown them
The meaning
Of
Mercy
Forgiveness
Faith
Trust
In
The
Moment
In which
They each
Chose
What
To do
I
Tested them
Each one
Unique
The test
The subject
The response
Each one
Bears witness
To
faith
in
me
in
the part of me
within them
that is them
in our
relationship
our dependence
our unity
we are
one
I thought
I knew that
then
I realize
I Know that
Now
They
Did not desert me
I
Did not abandon them
In time
Of trial
I tested them
They turned to me
For strength
Though
They knew
I
Was
The source
Of
The suffering
What
Amazing
Creatures
I have made
To be
Separate
Yet
A part
Of me
Of all
We
Are
One
Yes
I know
I have caused pain
Son
Torn from father
Father sacrificing
Relationship with son
Mother
Alone bereft angry confused
Soon to die
To rejoin
Her source
All is
my doing
The family
Torn asunder
Yet not asunder
For within me
Within faith
They are
Have been
Will always be
Together
One
Within me
Perhaps
This is not
A consolation
Now
Perhaps
One day
It will be
Still
I know
I do not
Want
To test
Anymore
Still
I know
I must
Continue
Testing them
Testing me
One
And
The
Same
To remain
Certain
In
The only thing
That is
certain
Permanent
Reliable
Relationship
Me
You
Us
Bound
Together
Eternity
There is
No them
No other
Only
One
That
Is the answer
To the test
The
Divine human
Equation
One
I
Got it right
I believe
They did too
They still do
They always will
If they
We
I
Look within
To the soul
Our soul
And not without
To others
To find
The answer
The truth
Of
One

V. What About Me

Why
Who
What
I do not
Understand
Why
I should
Care to

They are
Foreign
Strange
Unknown

I pity them
Father
Sacrificing son and self
Mother
Sitting in silence
Enabling the plot
Son
Risking all
For what
God
Self-centered
Needing to know
The Truth
Even if
It kills
Them

Leave me alone
I do not want
To know you

Yet
I must
I do
For you are all
Me
I am all
Of you
One

No
I refuse to believe
This Truth

I would not
Sacrifice
For any God

I would not abandon
The miracle child
I never thought
Would be

I would not
Risk my life
To prove
My love

I would not
Ask
The unaskable
Of those
I claim
To
Love
To serve
My needs

Or

Would I
Have I
Will I
Again

Don’t we all

No
I refuse
To believe
With complete faith
That
This
Is

Yes
I know
With complete faith
How could it not
Be

Love
Sacrifice
Pain
Surrender
Fury
Resignation

All
Part of life
For all
For God
Our image source

We God
Do not want
to cause
pain

we still do

We God
Do not want
To know
The limits
Of
Faith love

We still do

We God
Do not want
To give up
The self
The ideal
To find
The truth
Within

We still do

We God
Do not want
To sit
Passive inactive
Allowing
The plot
To unfold
Before our eyes
Within our heart
Unable to
Stop it

We still do

Why
Must this be
Why
Can it not
Be simple
Why can
There be
No pain
No test
No sacrifice
No surrender

Why

Because

Without
Pain
Testing
Sacrifice
Surrender
Life
Would not
Be
Life

Without these
We would be
Isaac
Without laughter
Never able to leave
Home

Abraham
Staying at his tent
Welcoming guests
Never going
Beyond
Comfortable borders

Sarah
Protecting
Her precious possession
Never letting him
Go
Grow
Live

God
Not knowing
How far
Each of us
Will go
What
Each of us
Will do
To surrender
To
Divine will
To continue
The story
Of creation

Still

I do not like them
Yet
I love them
For I know
Them
I know
Their actions
Feelings
A part of
Me
I
A part of
Them

Remember
With all this
Suffering
Was
Not
A
Part
Of
The plan

Suffering
Comes
Only
When we
Deny
That everything
Everyone
Is indeed
Part
Of the plan

As long
As we realize
We are
One
We are
Part
Of something greater
Not apart
By
Our
Selves
We may experience
Pain
But suffering
Will stay
Away

Perhaps
This is
What God
What they
Are trying to teach

I still
Don’t like
The players
I still
Don’t like
The plot
But
Now
I watch it
Unfold
Within and around
I see
Their traits in me

Through the
Pain
I know
There is something
Greater
I must
Learn

Still

I wish
There were
An
Easier
Way

Maybe
Next
Year

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